I was, thankfully, too busy all day to be too nervous. I had a software demo to sit through, my day-to-day duties to get done, and a million other aggravating interruptions that kept me busy until I had to leave 2 hours early.
I called my oldest on the way to her house. This was where we were all to meet. The grandmother (Pickle's) was there, dropping off mail. She was gone by the time I made it. They had told Junior they were not going to the hearing; they wanted to stay as far out of it as possible. That had me half-pissed. Haley wanted them there for support. So it wasn't that they were "for" their son; they did not support her decision. Well, Grandpa did - Grandma did not.
We make it to the courthouse, sign in and find a seat. My attorney comes over and pulls me and Pickle to the side, to get the last-minute details down. They call us in, and here we go.
I do everything I can to pull a neutral face, and not be nervous or have a pissy expression on my face. He (the ex) sits at the table on the other side, alone, arms crossed and a scowl on his face.
The magistrate starts, asks if he agrees with this temporary immediate change of custody order, to which he replies, "Yes, with the TEMPORARY order." Yea, we both caught that, too.
We get a little farther into it, and my attorney asks the court if we can come to an agreement and just settle everything today. The judge asks him to clarify.
She has stated emphatically that she wants to live with me.
She will be 18 in just over 3 months.
There is no sense dragging this out, wasting the court's time for the temporary custody pre-trial, trial, then the permanent custody pre-trial and trial.
The judge looks at EvilMan and asks him about this, since he was already agreeing to the temporary custody. We still have a couple options up our sleeves.
"Your Honor, we will waive child support for the remainder of the term of her childhood, should he choose today to settle this matter in full."
Meaning: if he drags it out over the next 9 months, I'm still responsible for support. If he chooses to do this, I will be requesting back support for these 3 months, plus the remainder of the school year.
The judge orders a 10 minute recess for the two sides to talk. Pickle and I go outside the room where her sister and the beau wait. Pickle's a nervous wreck; she just wants to be done with it and away from him.
We're called back in; the judge goes back on the record. He lets EM know that he has a right to an attorney; he has the right to a trial; to call witnesses; to cross-examine any witnesses we may call. He acknowledges. He is asked if he agrees to the terms of the agreement and if he understands said agreement. He says yes.
My turn. Right to go to trial, call witnesses, and cross-examine. Yes. Understand the terms? Yes. Is this what I wish the court to approve?
Fuck yea. Well, that's not EXACTLY what I said. I was proud of myself; I did not break out into song and dance, nor did I smile excessively. I was polite, professional, and let the judge know, I was there for Pickle, and I was ready to end the turmoil.
So granted. AND stated for the record that Pickle was allowed to come home with me, even though the papers would not be finalized for a couple days. Also on the record was a Short Order signed by the judge stating that this was effective immediately so there would be no issues with her being a runaway, or me child-stealing. Last but not least, we wanted to get her personal belongings and be done.
We walk out, and I have to speak to EM to set a time for the evening. We then go grab food (Domino's cheesy bread and chicken kickers - oh yea!) and settle in at Junior's to watch some silly bridal show about picking out dresses and reception dinners.
During a break, Junior goes out to pull laundry off the line. As she's on her way back in, I motion her into the kitchen out of Pickle's line of sight and we hug and do our own little happy dance to celebrate. "She's finally home, momma."
It's been 16 years. Long, painful, tear-filled years. Sad spots filled the empty space.
I sit here tonight and watch my youngest daughter doing her homework at our awesome kitchen table. I made supper while she read her Government homework. We ate with a little conversation; she's still getting used to being around someone who wants her around. She "lets" me hug her. *sigh* She has been in a house for nearly 10 years with no affection. That she is as caring and loving as she is is a miracle, but behind that heart is a wall.
She was exhausted. Her best friend in the world couldn't be there; her grandmother isn't speaking to her. Oh yea - didn't get to that part.
As we were driving to his house to pick up her things, her grandmother calls. (she's driving her own vehicle.) She yells at her, telling her that her dad is mad at her (the grandmother) and why couldn't she just wait until she was 18?
Oh hell no.
This is NOT her fault. She expressed to everyone that she didn't want to be there. She told her grandparents (BEFORE ME) that he had hit her over the whole prom dress thing. They knew of the times before. He is old enough to fend for himself. She was not. She does not get "blamed" for "making her dad mad."
He was pissed at Grandma long before this, and will be in the future about other things besides.
And let's review... the judge told him... he had the right to an attorney, he had the right to a trial, he had to right to contest this change of custody. He CHOSE to turn it over in exchange for not having to pay child support, thus ending the process.
So she tells her sister that no one is on her side. Her best friend is gone, and her grandmother is not speaking to her. Junior reminds her she still has her and me, and things just need to settle.
She can not fully comprehend how much I'm glad she's here, how much I've missed her over the years. I watch her read, I talk with her, and I silently give thanks because at last my child is home. It's strange, but now I feel like I can finally "start" my life. She will not understand the huge void that was there for all those years; how I lived for her to visit; how I was so sad when she was gone. All those years, robbed of the little moments of joy. All those moments cast aside by EM. She knows this; it breaks my heart. She told me not long ago that she knew now that he did not want her there, he just didn't want her with me. And now to have her grandmother treating her this way. Her heart is hurting. Maybe one day the fences can be mended with the grandparents. With the father, it's hard to tell. It's going to take some time for her to process. She has now learned the painful lesson that life is not always good, and kind, and fair. How sad that she had to learn that lesson from the ones to whom she was closest.
Even better than that awesome $30 oak kitchen table is the priceless treasure that sits there, doing her Calculus.
Tonight I am finally whole.